Fernandes gets Man United out of jail after tepid display

Can Man Utd's win at Fulham turn their season around? (1:34)

Rob Dawson discusses whether Manchester United's victory at Fulham is going to help reassure fans after their worst start to the season since 1962. (1:34)

LONDON -- It wasn't pretty, but Manchester United boss Erik ten Hag won't care.

At the end of a week that has seen the Dutchman's position at Old Trafford seriously questioned for the first time, Bruno Fernandes forced in a stoppage-time goal to hand United a scrappy 1-0 win at Fulham.

The ball bobbled and ricocheted around the penalty area, off Facundo Pellistri, Scott McTominay, João Palhinha and Tim Ream, before it broke to Fernandes on the edge of the box and he poked his finish into the bottom corner via Bernd Leno's outstretched hand.

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At best it was a comedy of errors and at the final whistle Ten Hag was the one laughing. It won't win any goal of the season competition but after back-to-back 3-0 home defeats to Manchester City and Newcastle United, he will take anything he can get. He can breathe again, until visiting FC Copenhagen in the Champions League on Wednesday.

"It's a good win, a solid performance," said Ten Hag, who was without Marcus Rashford because of injury 24 hours after branding his behaviour after the Manchester derby as "unacceptable."

"Every game, we have to win. I think it was a solid performance and I am pleased with it.

"I am pleased with the spirit of the team and the way we pressed. They play very decent football from the back and we never allowed that. We were very good in pressing and winning second balls, and ball progressing, but it's clear in the box we have to create more. But I think the composure on the ball was a step up."

It was a vital win but the performance will do little to calm the concerns of fans who held up a banner before kickoff that read: "play like you mean it."

This is a team who look capable of losing any game and they could have quite easily lost this, particularly during a spell of Fulham pressure immediately after half-time when André Onana had to make good saves from Harry Wilson and then Palhinha.

Until fishing the ball out of his net in stoppage time, Leno only had to make one save of note from a late Fernandes free kick.

Afterward, Fulham manager Marco Silva was left fuming after watching United score an injury-time winner at Craven Cottage for the second season in a row.

"It's a really difficult one to take," Silva said. "We wanted to be the better team and I think we did it. At this level we cannot be punished in the way we were. In 10 seconds, there were three or four mistakes from three or four different players and it's difficult to understand. It was clearly our fault that we didn't win the game."

The question now will be whether Fernandes' goal can be a platform for United to build on, but Ten Hag is still facing a number of problems. Among them is an inability to score early.

After having a eighth minute McTominay goal ruled out by VAR for offside, their earliest Premier League goal this season stands at 17 minutes against Nottingham Forest when they were already 2-0 down -- one of only four first-half goals they've scored in 11 league games.

Just once have they led at half-time -- against Burnley in September -- and against a Fulham side who haven't scored in the first half of a league game at home, it was no surprise that it was 0-0 at the break.

Antony, the second-most expensive player in the club's history when he signed from Ajax in a £85m deal 18 months ago, is another problem.

The Brazilian winger was substituted early in the second half after a largely anonymous display. As the 23-year-old trudged towards the benches with his number being held up by the fourth official, Rebecca Welch, there were scattered cheers from the visiting fans.

Overpriced and underwhelming, Antony is starting to become the latest poster boy for United's failed recruitment strategy but there are similar questions being asked about Mason Mount, just months after his £55m summer move from Chelsea.

Left on the bench against Manchester City last weekend, the England midfielder was again named among the substitutes against Fulham as Ten Hag picked a midfield three of Fernandes, McTominay and Christian Eriksen.

Mount had two impressive seasons at Chelsea between 2020 and 2022 but at the moment it looks like United have made a signing that Ten Hag doesn't have a place for, although he's certainly not alone in a squad which is filled with under-performing players.

The most important factor, though, is that victory over Fulham triggers an upturn in form ahead of games against Copenhagen and Luton Town before the international break. The questions haven't been answered but Ten Hag will hope they're been quietened, if only for a couple of days.